Suffolk delegation in Oderzo

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

It was about one year ago when 30 Italians descended upon Suffolk, in time to see the fountain designed by an Oderzo, Italy, architect make its debut splash outside the Mills E. Godwin Courthouse.

The hospitality was returned over the weekend, when 30 Suffolk residents – including two city lawmakers, three city administrators and their spouses – and members of the Sister Cities Commission were treated to a whirlwind of festivities in the hometown of Planters Peanut magnate Amedeo Obici.


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Oderzo has been one of Suffolk’s two sister cities for nearly a decade, said Mary Jane Naismith, chairwoman of the Suffolk Sister Cities Commission. Suffolk, England, is the other.

Suffolk presented its sister city with a token of their mutual connection in Obici – a restored Mr. Peanut, identical to the one that graces Character Corner in downtown Suffolk. The statue was purchased by the Sister Cities Commission.

Mayor E. Dana Dickens and Councilman Calvin Jones were the only council members who went on the trip. The opportunity was made available to all council members, said Assistant City Manager Cindy Rohlf.

She, along with City Manager R. Steven Herbert and Economic Development Director Tom O’Grady, and their spouses accompanied the group.

Although Oderzo’s formal activities ended yesterday, the Suffolk delegation will stay in Italy through May 30.

The city only paid for the travel expenses of the five city officials, a total of about $5,000, Rohlf said. Before the trip, she said no additional food or lodging expenses were expected during the official part of the trip as the Suffolk residents were staying in homes of their Italian counterparts.

When the Italian visitors came to Suffolk, they also stayed with host families rather than hotels, Naismith said.

&uot;That’s the first time we have had Sister Cities’ visitors stay in our homes,&uot; Naismith said. &uot;People got to know people on a much more intimate basis.

&uot;There was a lot more time to talk and learn about each other’s culture and everyday life,&uot; she continued. &uot;I think a lot of people made lasting friendships.&uot;

Over the weekend, the Suffolk delegation took part in several official activities: the statue dedication ceremony, an opera and visits to a high school and hospital named after Obici. Like Suffolk’s hospital, Obici established a trust fund to finance the Oderzo hospital construction.

Thus far, the relationship between Suffolk and Oderzo has been limited to cultural exchanges between the two cities. But that initial connection can pave the way for much deeper relationships, Naismith said.

&uot;The involvement through Sister Cities provides the contacts,&uot; said Naismith. &uot;It provides a natural connection…a reason for visits to be made and relationships to be formed.&uot;

That camaraderie oftentimes sets the stage for future business dealings, she said.

During the trip, O’Grady will be touting the city to Oderzo’s businesses community. The economic development department had one of its recruitment brochures translated into Italian.